Why I don’t want to hear it about gas prices

I had to fill the Middle Aged Dad Mobile up on Tuesday.  When the pump finished doing its thing, I looked at the total sale amount, shook my head, took my receipt and went on my merry way, having been conveniently unencumbered of all that extraneous money that might have otherwise weighed down my checking account.  Yes, my gasoline was a penny shy of $4.00 a gallon.  But you know what?  I’m not going to complain about it and neither should you.

Over the past few days I’ve heard and read any number of vitriolic grumblings about how ridiculous the price of gas is and how our elected officials need to do something about it.  Quite frankly, that irks me more than anything else.

People who traditionally lean right are blaming the President for being too lazy, too incompetent, or apparently too non-citizen to do anything for us.  People who usually lean left are shaking their fists at how Congress is intentionally doing nothing to make the President look bad so he won’t get re-elected.  It’s as if everyone figures the price of gas is some big game of Federal Government Chicken.

Well, guess what?  It’s not.  Not that the US Government is above that sort of thing, mind you; see Federal Budget Chicken, April 2011 (also, 1995, 1996).  But the last time I checked, there’s no clause in or amendment to the Constitution of the United States that guarantees each American citizen the right cheap gasoline.  Our elected officials are pretty good at not really accomplishing anything, but I’d say in this case their sloth is warranted.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t everyone always clamoring about the Free Market here?  Doesn’t that kind of go with democracy and freedom and all that?  To me, it seems kind of hard to be really, truly free when the you’re all nuzzled up to the cheap gas nipple.  Or do we not care so much about a free market as long as it’s a cheap market?

Look, all browbeating aside, the thing with gas prices is pretty simple.  In fact, it’s middle-school economics.  Yes, oil companies suck and are trying to milk every precious cent they can out of you.  They have a product and they like to sell it.  Ever had a yard sale?  I bet you didn’t give away your old baseball cards, did you?  Nope, you tried to get as much as someone would pay for them.  Oil companies are no different; that’s what they’re supposed to do.

Besides, regardless of their tendency to side with those wacky, evil Sith Lords, their product (like everything else in a free market) is theoretically governed by the laws of supply and demand.  Demand, my friends, is up.  In fact, it’s been up, and it’s going to keep going up as long as we are going to keep being so dependent on it.  You want to drive that car of yours from here to Chicago three times a week?  Yeah, that’s demand. Excited about the brand new ass-kicking dualie monster truck you nicknamed Big Bad Bubba with those sweet plastic balls hanging off the back?  Yep, more demand.  Population of the Earth keeps increasing, doesn’t it?  Demand, demand, demand.

Yep, we all want more gas.  Gimme, gimme, gimme.  Unfortunately, our supply isn’t really, you know, infinite.  In fact, supply is going down.  That’s what happens when you consume consumables. So, then…demand? Up.  Supply?  Down.  You know what usually happens when that’s the situation, right.  Ding, yessir, yessir! The price goes up. Gene, we’ve got a big winner, tell them what they’ve won!

So then, yes, the idea that the price of oil keeps going up because those terrible, mean people on the other side of the world like to make money off of us sucks.  But that’s the shakes, girls and boys.  You want cheaper gas?  Feel free to ditch the free market economy.  I bet China’s a lovely place to live and work.  Of course, most people can’t really afford a car there, but hey, at least the gas might be cheaper (if it’s price controlled…I’m not really up on the price of gas in communist China).  What’s that you say? Not looking to switch to the Red team?  Well, then, you’ve got two choices.  We could all stop being so damned dependent on oil, in which case demand will fall and then, look, magically lower prices!  Otherwise, your only real option is to buy a boatload of stock in Exxon.

At least maybe that way you’ll get your money back in dividends.

Either way, the price of gas is your fault, my fault, and the fault of anyone who’s hell bent on crapping on alternate forms of energy and/or transportation.

So, maybe next time you go to vote for someone, perhaps you should find a candidate interested in fixing the problem rather than just promising to keep you suckling on an artificially price controlled teat that you’re ultimately going to pay for some other way and is eventually going to dry up, anyway.

Ahem.  I feel better now.

Pud’n